10 Must-Do’s to an Affordable, Fun Eurotrip
Whenever American friends are considering a trip to Europe, I unload my bag of cheap life hacks which can make Europe more enjoyable for them and their bank accounts. So, I have compiled that list for you!
1. Consider non-English speaking countries
Book the cheapest ticket to any European country you can find, don’t be set on the UK. The British pound is even pricier than the Euro and European millennials for the most part all speak English. Some will claim their English is poor and will push off any questions you may present to their straight ‘A’ friend, but they ALL understand you and have the ability to respond. This for the most part goes for the older generations as well. My 60 year old German aunt claims she does not speak English, yet whenever she visits family in England or the U.S. she doesn’t need us to translate a darn thing.
On the other hand, how exciting is it to pick up a few new phrases in a new language?! In my experience, locals have always been eager to help me learn their language or dialect. And lastly, English is the language of travelers. Hotels and hostels are filled with people from all over the world, it is incredibly common that people who’s native tongues are not English are conversing in English with one another.
2. Allow yourself time to explore places you love by not overbooking your trip
The number one mistake I find Americans making abroad is having an itinerary so jammed packed they have no flexibility. You will meet people and suggestions along the way which you will want to take. Make sure you don’t have every night planned for, give yourself wiggle room to extend or shorten a given location by a day or four, depending on the length of your trip. Hostels and Airbnb are safe, cheap options, which don’t face high price gauging when you book last minute. Leading me to my next point…
3. Stay at hostels
Not only are they by far the cheapest, they are also the most fun. Staff offer insightful cheap suggestions to navigate and explore the area without you having to feel like a cheapskate. Not only will staff offer suggestions, but so will fellow travelers. Consider hostels, your home away from home, it is without a doubt where you will meet great people with whom you want to stay in contact with. Hostels offer community style spaces to socialize, often have kitchens for your use, and if you’re not a fan of sleeping in a dorm you can book a private room and still reap the social benefits of the common areas.
4. Utilize the world wide web
Europe, much like America, utilizes the internet for practically everything. When Stephen and I were traveling through Italy, we contemplated purchasing our tickets from the station. The cheapest tickets from Milan to Rome were 86 Euros per person. After being astonished by the price, we checked online the same day using google flights (yes trains also appear) for the same day of journey and the tickets were 29.90 Euros per person. A staggering 56.10 difference! We learnt our lesson, buy online.
5. Become familiar with European Airlines
Well done, you’ve booked your cheapest ticket to Europe, perhaps you find your journey beginning in Paris or Prague or Amsterdam (Dublin though English is often very affordable as well), the list goes on. Now, while I adore google.com/flights it is a tool to be used, not a human. Find your cheapest inbound flight and from there search for different flights originating from that airport to a different location you are set on going to. Far cheaper airlines and train options will appear.
6. Travel light as a feather
When navigating your way from airports to your accommodation, the cheapest way is to use public transport (God bless the European public transportation system!). Now, as connect and efficient as it may be, it isn’t always ideal for us Americans lugging around two 50 lbs suitcases, as elevators and escalators are not always present.. Take it from me, I embarrassingly attempted to shlep them up the endless flights of stairs from the Paris underground, until a man jumped in to help. Just to find myself having to drag them along for another three blocks on cobblestones in the rain until I arrived. So, how do I travel nowadays? With a large carry-on suitcase, which I can preferably convert into a backpack.
Not only is it more convenient off the plane, but if you are using cheap airlines within Europe, traveling light is essential as you are not permitted check-in luggage. Pros? Most carriers have no wait limit on your carry-on!
7. Ditch the heels and pack comfortable shoes
Prepare to hike, jog, skip; whatever gets you going, just be sure to spend time on your feet. Huge cathedrals are beautiful, no doubt about it, but it’s the ones tucked away in side alleys which I find breathtaking. They aren’t overloaded with tourists, yet hold just as much history and they’re free! Serene and packed with treasures inside, they are sure to be found if you explore any European city or town by foot. From street performers to boutiques to court houses and churches, opting for a 0 carbon footprint day will not disappoint you.
8. Take advantage of free days and discount tickets
If you are a student, you must remember to pack your student ID. Always ask if there are discounted tickets, most museums, historical landmarks, and even shows, will offer you special prices, even if they are not displayed. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, for example, is completely free to students (granted you have your ID with you). The same goes for retail stores, some will give you a percentage off.
Not a student or on a very tight budget? Consider researching your places of interest online, I encountered several museums which offer free days. The Sforza Castle’s museum sections in Milan, for example, are open to the public free of charge on Tuesdays and every day after 4:30pm, if you want to soak in the stunning courtyard and garden, stop by any time gratis.
9. Consider buying booze at a grocer and plan a picnic in public
There are no open container laws in Europe. So, if you want to sit & sip on the beaches of Croatia, on a bench along the canals of Amsterdam, or in London’s Hyde Park, feel free. You can likely buy the same bottle of wine a restaurant sells at an outrageous cost for less than 10 Euros. I would recommend buying a souvenir bottle opener (which you can later regift if you choose to 😛 ) and splurge on some 1 Euro glasses which can easily be left behind at the place you’re staying. For the food portion of a picnic, consider Marks & Spencers in the UK. I love their food, with healthy and hearty options, you won’t be disappointed.
10. Remember you’re on vacation
If you’re like me, you’re a penny pincher, “count your pennies, know your dollars.” I sometimes worry too much about costs, when the truth is, one of my most fondest experiences in Paris was wine tasting and I was not happy to spend the money at first. But sometimes you have to spend a little and that’s okay. Make sure to budget reasonably and you will be able to enjoy your trip stress free. As for my wine tasting, it allowed me to purchase wine at the grocer with knowledge.
(Note: the above wine was a €10 glass in Venice, and it was pretty much the most watered down wine I’ve ever had, but the views were amazing. Bonus tip: pick your battles)
I hope these can help you plan your dream trip. Feel free to contact me with any questions and I’ll be happy to respond.
Safe travels millennials!